Adam D’Angelo went on Zhihu to learn how American companies can be more like Chinese ones. Original Link
Chinese question-and-answer site Zhihu announced have raised $270 million in series E funding on August 8 and will use them to boost artificial intelligence related technology and building a better content eco-system. Original Link
When it comes to sharing and on-demand services, there seems to be no limit to what goes around in the Chinese ethosphere. The authorities drew the line on a “girlfriend sharing” service with sex dolls this month, and the startup had to shut down. But there are plenty of other eyebrow-raising items that the Chinese share or buy second-hand online.
Here’s a look at the breadth of China’s sharing, renting, and on-demand services economy beyond the ubiquitous bike-sharing and ride-sharing.
The Chinese are digging into their own treasure troves to offer their neighbors a share of what they loved but grew tired of. Xianyu, roughly translated as “idle and excess,” is an app where users can pass around all kinds of second-hand or unused items. Apart from the regular used clothes and shoes, there are also more intimate items such as lipsticks, underwear (worn once), or even rare pets like centipedes. And what’s being sold aren’t just consumer goods: here you can also find a pink diamond, which sold for US$1.15 million; a full-size commercial aircraft, which sold for a bargain at US$76,000, and a lock of long hair, which sold for US$455.
Apart from the eclectic and personal, there are also apps that offer more functional utilities. If you forget your umbrella on a rainy day, there’s an app that will locate for you the nearest place to borrow an umbrella. Or on a day when your phone is almost out of battery, you can use an app to find the closest charging hub available.
Co-living spaces are gaining ground in all major cities around the world. With rents in big cities becoming increasingly unaffordable for young Chinese, many are turning to shared living spaces. And they have plenty of variety to choose from.
A popular option is a youth condo, a product akin to a nicely furnished youth hostel. For a rent lower than that of a regular apartment, one can have a small room of 20 to 30 square meters, in addition to the much larger shared area where residents can relax and mingle around a pool table in the lobby, lounging chairs and sofas, and also use a kitchen. It is often branded as a lifestyle choice where professionals can expand their social circle rather than just a place to go to for cheap rent. Among the popular ones in China is You+, a co-living space backed by Xiaomi’s founder Lei Jun.
Another form of shared living space is co-renting, but with total strangers. Zuber, a subletting app, allows users to find roommates and sign legally binding contracts with them. Renters can list their preference for roommates – from gender and occupation to personality types and horoscopes.
Real estate agent Lianjia has also stepped into the co-living space market by managing sublets for landlords. For example, they will subdivide a four-bedroom flat into four units, each with an electronic lock mounted on the bedroom door. Tenants sign leases with Lianjia and share the kitchen and bathroom with other sub-letters.
From language instructions to budget travel tips, Chinese app “Right Here” offers a lot more than the regular nanny or handyman services one would expect. Listed among the service categories are also Chinese astrology reading and counseling services, which are proving to be quite popular. The charge can be as low as US$0.75 per hour for “listeners” and can go up to several hundred dollars for professional counseling.
Another peculiar but popular service is to hire someone to “water” your virtual plants in a virtual forest, as part of a low-carbon community project developed by Alibaba’s Ant Financial. Users earn points by making green choices – such as paying a bill online instead traveling to a store, or buying a metro ticket. The points earned from green behaviors, also known as “watering,” go toward growing a virtual tree. And when it’s fully grown, a real tree is planted in a desert area of the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia.
Everyone needs more time, and time is valuable. How about calling someone who will bring you meals, pick up parcels, and help you run the many errands that you just don’t have time for? Whether you are one busy CEO or just want to be a couch potato on a lazy Sunday, you can use the app Linqu to buy you some time.
On the app, just type in whatever you want, say “Starbucks pumpkin spice latte,” and you don’t even have to specify which store to get the latte; some errand runner will send it to your door within the promised time-frame. This also applies to food delivery that is out of the delivery zone, or convenience store runs for last-minute cigarettes and tampons.
One popular function is to hire someone to stand in queues that could probably take hours – to buy a cup of tea at a popular outpost, to get a queuing number for a doctor’s appointment at a reputable public hospital, or for a table at a no-reservation restaurant.
You can also post errand requests. Some examples are: “Check if there is anyone posting leaflets outside my door, and take them down for me”, “Print my plane ticket and hotel booking confirmation”, “Buy ointment at the nearby pharmacy”.
Zaihang, an app with a database of professionals in almost any industry, offers professional advisory services of all sorts – from helping you solve your business problems to choosing an investment plan. Other knowledge-sharing apps such as Zhihu and Wenka offer paid courses on specific topics users are interested in, some of which are live broadcasts where users can interact with the experts. If users have specific questions, they can also pay experts to answer them.